UltraWideLife

Every Landscape Photographer Needs These Filters

Filter usage for landscapes is not yet dead and it won’t ever be. There is no post-processing technique to replace what filters can achieve. No amount of editing in Photoshop can produce results what polarising and neutral density filters can, still being close to “reality”.

In this post, I have shared my filter usage and sample picture which would have never been possible without my filter kit. I bought a brand new set of Nisi filters some six months ago. Though I have been using screw on filters from B+W for a few years now (on my Nikon 20mm 1.8 G)

My precious acquisitions

Polarizer

Have you ever used a polarized sunglasses? If you have used them just you would already know the impact of polarization on any landscape scene. A polarizer is used to cut glare from the non-metallic surface like water bodies, leaves, moss, grass, stones etc. Apart from this polarizer reduces some glare from the sky as well making the sky bluer and clouds lighter thereby increasing contrast in the sky and making it pop. In night cityscapes, a polarizer can be used to reduce glares from auxiliary lights and haze from the sky.

Milford Sound, New Zealand, Exif – 30 sec, f/11, ISO 50, 19 mm. FIlters used – Polarizer, ND10, GND 6. Using polarizer, I was able to cut glares from water and reveal underlying rocks

Two images shot using same settings. Left without a Polarizer and right with a Nisi Polarizer. Note reduced glare from water and less haze in sky

All these properties can be used to get cleaner and distraction-free images. And trust me no photoshop trick can replicate a polarizer.

Neutral Density (ND) Filters

Think of ND filters as sunglasses for your camera. They are used to stop the light from entering your lens.
I can not emphasize enough on the importance of ND filters for a photographer. Have you ever wondered how come some photographs have super smooth waters or smooth skies with cloud movement? That is achieved using ND filter. I have been using a 10 stop ND filter for quite some time and I can never imagine leaving my house without it. You can increase the exposure time to create a similar effect but there is only a limited exposure time which you can generally achieve without an ND filter.

ND filters come in various classifications. 1 stop ND filter stops less light and 16 stops filter blocks most of it. You would be able to click a 5-7 minute exposure during daytime using a 16 stop filter at f/8 and ISO100. Though it depends on the ambient light. But you get the point.

Each of these filters can be used only at certain time of the day. It will be nearly impossible to use a 16 stop filter during the blue hour. Similarly, a 1 stop filter is not of much use during the daytime. You need to try and experiment with your shooting style.

Long exposure of Tower Bridge, London. Exif – 266 sec, f/22, ISO50, 30mm. Ignore the vignetting, which I have added in PP

Gradual Neutral Density (GND) Filters

A GND filter is a special purpose filter which is used to block light from only one part of the frame. generally, this kind of filter is used to block bright sky against your foreground. I have used a 3 stop soft GND filter. There are many kinds of filters available in the market each varying the intensity of light it can stop and gradient of transition. A hard ND filter transition from dark to transparent pretty quickly where a soft ND filter transitions gradually.

Westminster Abbey, London. Exif – 63 sec, f/11, ISO50, 15mm, Filters used – GND 3 stop, ND 10 stop

What brand filters are best?

Well as with all photography equipment, quality glass is expensive. Filters are no exceptions. And I won’t recommend you to put a cheap 50 $ glass in front of your 2000$ lens. I paid nearly 1000 S$ to get a new kit of three filters and a holder from Nisi (For Tamron 15-30 mm Nikon Mount). I also use a B+W 10 stop MRC filter. Both Nisi and B+W are great filters. I have been happy with them as they leave no color cast and doesn’t depreciate image sharpness. I have heard good things are Formatt-Hitech and Lee too but I have never used them.

If you liked these picture, you can view more shots on my Insta. Link on top right.

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